You have taken that plunge and refined your dream into a plan. You have a tentative date of when you will start and you know how far you hope to go. It is time to make a plan, an outline. Something that at least loosely shows that you know which way you are going and that you have a vague idea of how long it will take. This is really fun to do. It makes you excited and scared at the same time. It makes it more real. It gets you on your way to the trail.
The importance of planning
There is a saying, that no battleplan ever survives contact with the enemy. Although I don't consider the Trail my enemy, this mindset has a lot of meaning to me. I always make a plan. I just also know that the plan will evolve and change as events happen. Flexibility is the key.
Some of the things you need to decide is where where you start? How will get to that trailhead? When will you meet some of the milestones that every long distance hike has. My next article will delve into these questions, but suffice it to say, having a plan (no matter how vague) has real value.
I have made a list of goals and milestones along the trail. I can look at it and based on the potential average mileage I hope to be doing as we move along the trail and get an idea of when we should be where. I don't plan on it matching up with reality exactly, but will know if I am ahead or behind the general, vague schedule. Making a general plan also helps with planning your resupplies. AWOL has some great spreadsheets on where you can resupply and how many days you will need for each resupply based on what your average daily mileage will be. Seeing the possibilities in front of you while you plan really helps when reality meets the plan and you need to find a place to get more food. I love planning.
They say that the best way to "train" for hiking is to put a weighted pack on your back and go walk in the woods. I'm a faithful follower of this outlook, but it never hurts to build up a little cardio strength along with making sure your core, and ankles are at a strength that will help you carry your load and move along the trail. If you can, put on a pack with some weight in it and walk in the woods near your home. You can also walk a treadmill or stepper in the gym. I have put my pack on and jumped on a treadmill before. I enjoy the looks I get from the other patrons.
If you are a runner, keep doing that. Light lifting can't hurt and strengthening your core will make carrying that extra weight on your shoulders and hips easier to handle.
No matter what you do, take the time to let your body get used to hiking every day, all day with weight on your back. Don't plan on (or try) doing 20 mile days out of the get-go. Start off slow and work your way up. It's perfectly ok to have some short days at the beginning, where you can spend some extra time in camp making sure you can put up your shelter effortlessly in every weather condition.
Calculate your budget
Running out of money is one of the main reasons a hiker doesn't complete the whole long distance hike they have planned. There are number of reasons for running out of money. Perhaps you didn't save enough before you ventured forth as an unemployed walker. Maybe you spent too much time (and money) in town. Those towns can suck you in and spin you around, all the while you cash is spilling out of your pockets and improving their economy. Avoiding this situation is key to making your funds last longer.
Conventional wisdom has said that you need about $2 per mile. Some can do it with less, some need a lot more. So having at least 4 to 5K in the bank or your mattress should be a starting point.
I have determined that when you spend your money on the trail, it will fall into one of these categories. Transportation, Resupply (food and consumables), Restaurants, Alcohol, Lodging, Laundry, Gear, Postage and shipping and Misc. If you are careful in how much you spend on each of these areas and you keep good records of where your money is going, you can make adjustments like, not staying in town as much or opting for a Hostel instead of a Hotel at the next town. Spending recklessly will only send you home early if your funds aren't stable.
So gather your funds and determine if you have enough to head out. Lisa and I are lucky that we will still have an inflow of funds in the form of my military retirement, so we won't be risking dire straits. We will still have household things to pay for, but hopefully our hiking life will be a little bit cheaper than our other world home life as we are both quitting jobs to do this hike. Time will tell.
Set the home front to autopilot
No one hikes alone. Well, very few do. Having someone back in the other world, helping you with your hike is pretty important. Almost essential.
So, we won't be selling a home or putting all of our stuff in storage. We will just quit our gym memberships, make sure the cars are up to date and ready to sit awhile and hand the household chores over to the Daughter. Brandi, aka Home Base. She will have the responsibility of watching the house and making sure the plants or the pets don't kick off. She will also have to handle a few things that I won't be able to do using my phone or a library computer and I have been preparing her for that task for a couple months already.
Today's technology goes a long way in being able to maintain things in the other world while you hike in the real world. But it won't cut the grass or buy the groceries. I think it will be a fun challenger for all of us.
As we do all these things, the dream becomes real. As the day draws closer, all your preparations will pay off and before you know it, you are breathing the air on Springer Mountain (or somewhere else), with a full pack on your back and feet ready to roam. (or at least to follow some blazes)
EarthTone and LoGear